Figure on Mayor Eric Adams lifting vaccine mandate by Opening Day, giving Yankees and Mets full rosters
Since we’re all seeking answers, from the Yankees, from the Mets, it’s only fair that I start.
I’m double-vaccinated, boosted, Pfizer’d across the board. Have been since Dec. 6. And plenty of people asked me all the time. The bars and restaurants in my Manhattan neighborhood. The gym I go to.
Newsday. Major League Baseball. The Yankees, the Mets.
They all demanded to know my status. And if I wanted to work in those places, or do much of anything else in New York, I had to be vaccinated.
Now that we have that out of the way, you don’t have to suspect hidden agendas here. Having lived through the hellscape that COVID-19 created in NYC, I didn’t require much arm-twisting to stick a vaccine in it.
Which brings us to the current predicament facing our local baseball clubs, and particularly the Yankees, who return to New York first to host the Red Sox on April 7 for Opening Day in the Bronx. Turns out, the vaccine mandate NYC Mayor Eric Adams kept in place for private sector employees -- the same law that has banned the Nets’ Kyrie Irving from playing in Brooklyn games all season -- very much applies to the Mets and Yankees, who are likely to have key players who remain unvaccinated.
Last season, a number of Mets pushed back against MLB’s vaccination efforts and the club was one of only four teams that did not reach the 85% threshold necessary for looser protocols. The Yankees got to the 85 mark, yet still suffered a handful of outbreaks. We don’t know for 100% certain who the anti-vaxxers are on either club -- unlike Irving, no rules have outed them yet. But if Adams’ mandate stays in place for Opening Day, those names will no longer be a secret.
After Tuesday’s workout at Steinbrenner Field, Aaron Judge was asked directly if he was vaccinated and didn’t provide an answer. Up to this point, his status was more about public health concerns, and the risk of transmission (Judge already tested positive once last July). But now his eligibility to play 81 games at Yankee Stadium, another two at Citi Field and nine in Toronto -- Canada still has a border ban for the unvaccinated -- could be riding on whether he got the jab or not.
"I’m so focused on us getting to the first game of spring training so, I think we’ll cross that bridge whenever the time comes," Judge said. "But right now, so many things could change I’m not really too worried about that right now."
Despite the deflection, Judge made it sound like a concern. But there’s still 23 days for Adams to remove the mandate. That’s what the Yankees and Mets must be banking on, because getting the anti-vax crowd to flip at this late stage, after resisting all this time, could be difficult. The Yankees said team president Randy Levine is working with City Hall on a resolution and ESPN reported the Players Association -- fresh off its exhaustive fight for a new CBA -- has joined the lobbying of Adams’ office as well.
As stubborn as Adams has been through the Irving saga, here’s why baseball is likely to get its wish. The COVID stats in NYC have plummeted since Adams implemented the mandate on Dec. 27 as the omicron variant was beginning its climb to a January peak. On that date, the seven-day average for NYC cases was 31,647, according to the city’s department of health, and it was down to 602 in the latest count this week. Hospitalizations have slid from 1,032 on Jan. 5 to eight in the most recent report. As of Tuesday, the positivity rate in NYC stood at 1.31% -- way down from the 8.9% omicron peak.
Also, Adams lifted the indoor mask mandate on March 7 and you no longer have to show vaccine cards for a dinner out. The mayor has been the city’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to returning to pre-pandemic normalcy, and if these promising trends continue, he should have enough evidence to lift the private sector mandate by Opening Day.
It has to be done for the right reasons, of course. And Adams has plenty of other non-sports issues to untangle with this mandate. But for a new mayor like Adams, who’s only been on the job for 10 weeks, the possibility of benching what could be some prominent Yankees on Opening Day is going to torpedo his approval ratings faster than Bill de Blasio donning a Red Sox cap.
Anyone who has followed the Irving saga is painfully familiar with the situation, as well as the inconsistencies, as the Nets’ point guard recently purchased a ticket and sat in the stands for last Sunday’s game against the Knicks at Barclays Center. Never mind that the arenas are full -- without fans wearing masks -- and unvaccinated players on visiting teams are exempt from the mandate.
I’d prefer everyone get vaccinated. But those that abstained, for whatever reason, should be thankful that the rest of us did our part to help revive New York. And by Opening Day, the bet here is the Yankees and Mets play with their rosters intact, jab or not, largely because of our efforts.